Six state legislators will join a state investigation into the Sago Mine disaster, House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, and Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, announced Wednesday.
The committee will work under the guidance of Davitt McAteer, former head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. Gov. Joe Manchin appointed McAteer to lead the state’s investigation Monday.
The committee will not duplicate other investigations but try to learn from them, Kiss said.
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“Basically, the Legislature wants to find out what went wrong at Sago and what we as a lawmaking body should do to minimize the chances of such a tragedy happening again,” he said.
The details of how the committee will operate and when it will meet are being worked out, said House spokeswoman Stacey Ruckle.
Tomblin said the six lawmakers would strengthen the investigation because of their skills and because they answer directly to voters.
“Not only do the committee members bring diverse backgrounds and professional experience to the inquiry, but they also will convey the concerns of their constituents,” he said.
The committee includes Delegates Mike Caputo, D-Marion; Eustace Frederick, D-Mercer; and Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur; and Sens. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall; Shirley Love, D-Fayette; and Don Caruth, R-Mercer.
Coal mining is part of each man’s life. Caputo started working in the mines at 19 and has been a United Mine Workers international representative since 1996.
“My sole interest is to get to the bottom of what caused this horrible tragedy, and to determine whether there is something this Legislature can do to prevent an accident like this from happening again,” Caputo said. “I am pleased that a committee of the Legislature will be at the table during this investigation, and I am honored to serve.”